As Dr. Muhammad Pate, Global Director of Health, Nutrition, and Population at the World Bank said, “These disruptions confirm our early warnings that secondary health impacts caused by COVID-19 are putting at risk many years of hard-fought gains in women’s and children’s health and nutrition. ”
The Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents (GFF) has been playing a key role complementing the Bank Group COVID-19 response in supporting its 36 partner countries providing both technical and financial assistance to protect and support the continuation of essential health services for women children and adolescent health while responding to the pandemic.
According to our estimates, global extreme poverty is expected to rise this year for the first time in a generation. COVID could push up to 150 million people into extreme poverty (defined as living on less than $1.90 a day) by the end of 2021.
Preparing countries to fight the pandemic and build better
The pandemic is stressing the need to invest in comprehensive preparedness and prevention within countries and across borders.
Using our global expertise, we are helping Sub-Saharan African countries fight by building on the lessons and systems put in place during the Ebola outbreaks. For example, Guinea was prepared when the first case was registered because it had a strategy, infrastructure and knowledge gained from combating Ebola.
A health worker at a testing center in Nigeria. © Sanumioluwa Dawodu/World Bank
We are working with and funding regional centers of excellence that make scientific contributions including sequencing the COVID-19 genome. Some of these include: the Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement Program (in West and Central Africa), the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the East Africa Public Health Laboratory Networking Project, and the West African Health Organization (WAHO).
We are assisting countries in their efforts to prevent, detect and respond to COVID-19, while strengthening national public health preparedness systems. We are also restructuring, redeploying, and reallocating some existing resources in financed projects.
In India, the health emergency project is upgrading the disease surveillance system, strengthening preparedness for disease outbreaks and revamping infectious disease hospitals.
A man’s temperature is taken at a COVID-19 testing center in India. © Shutterstock
Adapting the emergency operations to context and epidemic status of a country, the support to East Asia and Pacific region have been tailored to address specific needs. In Mongolia, for example, the Bank is strengthening capacities for a multi-sectoral response, particularly the interface of environmental, veterinary, and public health services to contain the spread of new viruses of animal origin at their source.
– which are negatively impacting the mental well-being of people.
In many countries, including Cambodia, Guatemala, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Marshall Islands, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, and Sri Lanka, Bank projects are supporting psychosocial interventions to help people deal with the negative psychological effects from stressors such as lockdowns, self-isolation and quarantines, infection fears, inadequate information, job and financial losses, and stigma and discrimination.
Health authorities in Phnom Penh conduct check-ups on health workers returning from the provinces after the Khmer New Year celebrations, amid concerns over the spread of COVID-19. © Chor Sokunthea/World Bank
Engaging local communities
The World Bank is tackling this by using all existing platforms to reach the most vulnerable.
Working through community-driven development programs to provide cash and resources quickly to communities, the World Bank’s support is targeting migrants, the disabled, women, unemployed youth, the elderly, and indigenous peoples.
Through these operations, we are using technology and innovations to ensure people have the information they need about the coronavirus.
In Afghanistan, for example, we are working with communities to share COVID-19 prevention messages through WhatsApp and telegrams to reach the people most disproportionately impacted by the crisis, including displaced people, those with disabilities, poor women, and nomads.
Community outreach in Afghanistan. © World Bank
They help improve public understand of the treatment, dispel misinformation and noncompliance with health instructions and medical guidelines.
Reflecting on his experience combatting the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Professor Muyembe, the eminent Congolese virologist who discovered the Ebola virus in 1976 and the current Ebola and COVID-19 response coordinator in his country says: “We have seen the importance of community engagement and awareness-raising campaigns to get people to understand the gravity of the situation and get involved.”
A health worker at the Port of Kinshasa, DRC. © World Health Organisation/Hugh Kinsella Cunningham
While these examples provide a glimmer of hope, much more is needed. The pandemic continues to take a toll across most of the globe, with many countries already battling a second wave.
As vaccines trials are progressing, we will continue to be flexible and agile in our health response, while saving lives and supporting the next phase of our country responses.
The profound impacts of the health crisis stress on the need to achieve universal health coverage to allow countries to protect and invest in their people and build a resilient future.
Going forward, the World Bank’s work will focus on strengthening health systems. It will soon release a new report that contributes evidence and analysis to a growing consensus that health leaders will achieve best results if they build system reforms around primary health care.
Health workers consult with patients at a testing center in Turkey. © Anadolu Agency
Working with partners
Future preparedness, prevention, and crisis responses must be global and collaborative. Not a single country can do this alone with adequate control, much less prevent the type of emergency the world is now experiencing.
To help address a global challenge like a pandemic, we need to work together. Over the next 100 days, we hope to help at least 100 countries get ready to deploy COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
As part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), we are partnering with GAVI, CEPI, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and WHO to ensure global, equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments for the poorest and most vulnerable countries. Our $12 billion financing is fully aligned with the ACT-A principals and goals.
Governments can use our funds to purchase vaccines and treatments through the COVAX facility. It will ultimately be up to countries to decide where to spend this financing and through what channels.
While many challenges and uncertainties lie ahead, we need to move forward and help countries to make health systems stronger, while recognizing the need to be flexible to adapt our approaches and self-correct when needed. This is what we believe in and what we are doing at the World Bank.